December 8, 2008

1 In 5 Cars Has A Personality Disorder

The other 4 cars are now completely fine, thanks to early intervention.

I. The New York Times: "1 in 5 People Has A Personality Disorder"

Almost one in five young American adults has a personality disorder that interferes with everyday life, and even more abuse alcohol or drugs, researchers reported Monday in the most extensive study of its kind.

And the article then becomes a list of every cliche and conflation possible.  Though the article is about personality disorders, they then lament  how common "mental problems" in college are, and the need for further treatment.  One psychiatrist found the "widespread lack of treatment worrisome... it should alert not only ''students and parents, but also deans and people who run college mental health services about the need to extend access to treatment.''

Here is awesomeness:

Dr. Sharon Hirsch, a University of Chicago psychiatrist not involved in the study, praised it for raising awareness about the problem and the high numbers of affected people who don't get help.

Imagine if more than 75 percent of diabetic college students didn't get treatment, Hirsch said. ''Just think about what would be happening on our college campuses.''

Are we still talking about personality disorders? 

It has the obligatory references to the Virginia Tech and other shootings.  I seem to remember everyone's insistence that those were not due to personality disorders?

Well, I can see that the the current crop of adults, age 35-60, I so admire for leading our country into moral, economic, and intellectual greatness, have accurately identified one of the most pressing problems today.  Nothing worse than an alcohol abusing, personality disordered college kid.  Exactly what Allan Bloom would have thought, or, more accurately, exactly what they think Allan Bloom would have thought, as they can't be bothered to find out.


The NYT is a blog pretending to be a newspaper.  It's for adults, or people who want to pretend they're adults, who remember as kids that reading the Times meant something that they'd now like to apply to themselves.   Now it's Bandwagon of the Month reporting: anyone see any global warming articles recently?  Bush is suppressing them, I guess.

So the problems it describes must always be of the form: "the other guys who are not you are bad."  That's widely perceived as liberal bias, though that's not accurate.  It's "not you" bias. The online readership is 37 years old, print 42-- this is the demographic that says, 'College kids are weak and pampered, if I could only go back to college and do it all over again..."  What?  Get a physics degree, or date sorority girls?  Or both?


The article's conflation of  "personality disorders" with every other kind of mental illness is a hint that an agenda is lurking.  That a popular press article would even bring them up-- previously, everything was bipolar or schizophrenia and not personality disorders (think Virginia Tech)-- means that an agenda is lurking.

That the actual Archives of General Psychiatry study, from which this "1 in 5 Young Adults Has A Personlaity Disorder" news article is based,  the one--

Results  Almost half of college-aged individuals had a psychiatric disorder in the past year. The overall rate of psychiatric disorders was not different between college-attending individuals and their non-college-attending peers. The unadjusted risk of alcohol use disorders was significantly greater for college students than for their non-college-attending peers (odds ratio = 1.25) although not after adjusting for background sociodemographic characteristics. College students were significantly less likely (unadjusted and adjusted) to have a diagnosis of drug use disorder or nicotine dependence... than their non-college-attending peers. Bipolar disorder was less common in individuals attending college. College students were significantly less likely to receive past-year treatment for alcohol or drug use disorders than their non-college-attending peers.

--in which the finding of personality disorder does not even merit a mention in the abstract, so insignificant was that finding to the study itself--

all that means an agenda lurking.  You're not being given information, you're being given a worldview.  Eat it.


But let's take it at face value-- 1 in 5 kids 18-21 have a personality disorder.

What's surprising about that is how low it is, considering that many of these "disorders" are normal developmental stages.  When your 17 year old stays out past midnight, doesn't call, and then has the nerve to get mad at you for being mad at him-- that may be a discipline problem, but it's not a personality disorder.  I get that you're angry, I'm with you, but the solution isn't a psychiatrist.  The solution is not to consider that the problem is pathological, but that it is the default behavior that you must help them change.

Given the move towards infantilizing kids, that personality "disorders" would linger a little past adolescence-- into the sheltered Quad of Prolonged Adolescence U-- is not surprising.  What matters is not the availability of treatment, but whether these "disorders" can be expected to resolve themselves naturally as they age, find relationships, jobs, a stable identity.  Of course they can.  Or, more to the point: the bias should be that things are normal, not pathological.


But let's take a philosophical approach.  What does having a personality disorder even mean?  Can an inanimate object have a personality?  Apparently, yes.

In Human Nature: 40 people looked at pictures of cars and had to rate them against 19 traits (gender, maturity, submissiveness, etc.) The subjects consistently identified the same traits among the cars. 

"The study confirmed with some rigor what many people have already felt -- that cars seem to have consistent personality traits associated with them"

Obviously, cars don't have personalities, they are inanimate.  We attribute personalities to them.  No one would dispute this.  You might say the cars are designed to elicit certain feelings towards them-- fine-- but the cars themselves do not possess character attributes, they only possess appearances.

Yet in the study, the different subjects-- these are not all genetic clones, they've had different lives and experiences-- still rated the cars as having the same attributes.  What does it mean, really mean, when everyone thinks a car is aggressive, or submissive, when it isn't?  Think about that, long and hard.

We have an internal personality constructs which are completely invalid.  That they are hard wired into us, that so many other things are hard wired into us, doesn't make them less invalid.  An optical illusion is still an illusion.  These are cars.  Metal.  Your mind is tricking you, on purpose.  What you saw was wrong.

When you look into the abyss, the abyss looks also into you.


Surely I'm not saying personality disorders don't exist? Or that people don't have personalities?  If you were the Last Man On Earth, you'd still have a personality, right?

Even when you're alone, there's still "another person" present-- that internal dialogue you have with yourself, as another person.  You're never truly alone, even if  sometimes you don't like the company.  And I haven't even brought up one's interaction with God, as epistemiologically unfashionable as that is to talk about nowadays.

All that aside, personality is the interplay between your physical/biological/innate/whatever traits and your life as you experience it (books and movies count); the interaction between you and Others.  As such, it can be drastically altered, both by you and by other people, by time and environment, on purpose and not on purpose.


The consistency in the ratings of personality was, the researchers found, related to the appearance of the car; how far apart the eye/headlights were, etc.  In other words, the cars were judged by how they look.  "What's inside" the car, how it behaved, wasn't even relevant.

If this is true, how hard will it be for a person to overcome the prejudice based on appearance?  How much will they have to overcompensate to make up for it?  How strongly will you believe the person is a smart/mature/aggressive/etc, no matter what he actually does?  Keep in mind these subjects know what a car is, they know that the appearance of a car does not reflect how it performs, they know cars don't have personalities, and still they give it certain attributes.  How different will that be in people?

How easy will it be to resist simply conforming to the way you are viewed?  How hard will it be for one person to say NO to the world, and self-identify? To resist the negative and the positive perceptions of others, in favor of who he decides he wants to be?

Pretty darn near impossible, I should think.


Back to the NYT.   I'm sure I'll be disputed, but hear me out:  we're entering the age of Keynesian Psychiatry, and the NYT can't contain its ejaculate.

It's an era where "free will" and the normal checks and balances of society and superego are considered ineffective.  No one can be expected to resist the id, and we need our parents to help keep us in control, or bail us out, send us money, when we need it.

We have massive bailouts, where the solution to 30 years of prior deficit spending is-- sit down-- more deficit spending; when the solution to overconsumption and undersaving is-- even more consumption and less saving.  Similarly, 30 years of maladaptive behaviors will be treated with-- different maladaptive behaviors.

It's not profits and growth, it's "fiscal stimulus" and "infrastructure development"-- in psychiatry this means less focus on treatment, less focus on "remission," and increased spending on detection, prevention, education-- you're already sick, you just don't know it.  This dovetails nicely with the (temporary) death of Big Pharma, who won't be generating any new treatments any time soon.  And if it's not obvious why early detection and education is bad: you don't get to decide what kind of detection or what kind of education.  Psychiatry does.

So too will there be increased "services" for the "mentally ill"-- redefined as anyone at all who wants the benefits-- even if these services weaken society in the long run.  Both are Ponzi schemes built to fix prior, failing Ponzi schemes.  They'll fail,  just in time for our kids to get drafted.

Just as you see a move towards more government regulation and control, so will you see psychiatry mirror this.  Laws will be written and revised, focusing less on punishment while simultaneously emphasizing surveillance.  For example: "taking cocaine is a disease, it shouldn't be punished, it should be treated.  So let's have mandatory drug testing for everyone 14 and older, you know, for early intervention."

Psychiatry as an arm of social policy means we have accepted society's new mantra: please save me from myself.